Self-proclaimed prophet Sheperd Bushiri and his wife, Mary, have been granted bail of R100,000 bail each after appearing in the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court in Pretoria on Wednesday morning.
The case was postponed until May 10.
The couple will have to stay in Gauteng as one of the bail conditions.
A large following of fanatical fans was ready to support the religious leader outside the court, holding placards, including one that said “You touch major 1 by mistake / You will die by correction / Hands off God’s prophet”. “Major one” is what the self-proclaimed prophet is known as among his followers.
Bushiri and his wife Mary face charges of fraud and money laundering.
Bushiri and his wife appeared in the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crime Court after the Hawks and police arrested them on several allegations, including contravening the Exchange Control Regulations Act in relation to $1,147,200 worth of foreign currency.
Hundreds of Bushiri followers protested outside the court in a show of unwavering support for the self-proclaimed prophet and his wife. Congregants from the church were seen singing and dancing outside the commercial crime court.
The arrest of Bushiri and his wife comes at a bad time for the religious leader.
Bushiri and his church have been at the centre of controversy after the death of three women in a stampede at his ECG church during a service on December 28. At least 17 other congregants were injured after running for shelter during a heavy rainstorm.
In the aftermath of the incident, the South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) led protests at the ECG, with community members calling for the church to be expelled from the Pretoria showgrounds and for Bushiri to be deported to his home country Malawi.
A report after an inquiry by the CRL Rights Commission, however, cleared Bushiri of negligence, finding that the event where the tragedy took place was compliant with municipal bylaws and the Safety at Sports and Recreation Events Act (SSRE Act).